Indian Hour

Katchatheevu to Coco Islands, The Story of India’s Giveaways

The Katchatheevu island issue is back in the limelight after PM Modi mentioned it in his speech, blaming Congress for giving it away to Srilanka after independence. It is a small, largely uninhabited island located off the coast of the Jaffna peninsula in Sri Lanka. The island was under the control of the British during the colonial era and was handed over to Sri Lanka after independence. Katchatheevu has been at the centre of territorial and fishing rights disputes between India and Sri Lanka.

When it comes to giving away lands, India is a player caught up in many such embroglios, including letting China take control of the Aksai Chin, ceding the Coco Islands to Myanmar, and the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. These were not due to a ruling by an International court; instead, these areas had to be ceded as India was the weaker player with lesser military might and weak leadership.

Katchatheevu Dispute

It is a small island situated just 30 kilometres off the Tamilnadu coast and 

New Delhi and Sri Lanka claim the island as their own, and very often, the Indian and Srilankan fishermen enter the waters of the other nation, leading to arrests and altercations. Although the island never belonged to India, we claimed it as ours, like Srilanka. After the Srilankan independence in 1948, Katchatheevu was handed over to Srilanka, and India gave up its claim on the island. However, under the new regime, this dispute has seen a fresh lease of life and has been in the news after the ruling dispensation raised the issue at the national level.

Coco Islands

Originally part of India until 1937, the Coco Islands are situated just 55 kilometres north of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The islands were on the ancient trade route between India and Myanmar and were frequented by merchant vessels. The British East India Company took control of the islands in the 1700s and converted the islands into a prison in 1858. Coco Islands were transferred to British Burma(Myanmar) due to its proximity and ease of administration from Myanmar. When Myanmar gained independence in 1948, it retained the islands. There have been rumours of Chinese presence on the islands, and now it has been established that China operates a listening post on the Coco Islands, apart from an airstrip and a hangar. This is a strategic challenge for the Indian security establishment as the Chinese presence in the Bay of Bengal allows them to monitor any activities, such as missile tests by Indian defence forces.

PoK, Aksai Chin and UN Security Council Seat

It has been named as the great blunder of Nehru, and rightly so. These are areas of strategic importance as the Himalayas stand tall, protecting India’s northern borders. 

This is not the case today as Pakistan has control over northern regions of Kashmir, which are used to send terrorists into India. Pakistan declared war right after Indian independence and gained control over a significant portion of Kashmir with its tribal militia; instead of letting the forces take care of it, PM Nehru went to the UN, and consequently, India lost a vast area of land to Pakistan. 

Similarly, in 1962, China attacked India and occupied Aksai Chin. It came as a surprise to the Nehru cabinet, which saw China as a friendly partner for whom India gave up its seat at the UN Security Council. Moreover, Nehru said in parliament, “Not a single blade of grass grows there.” 

Today, China and Pakistan have become a challenge for India as they assert their right over the illegally possessed lands that were overtaken due to the weak leadership and Nehru’s false pretence of friendship with China and his miscalculated slogan of “Hindi Chini Bhai Bhai.”

Conclusion

Indeed, India is the shining example of democracy in South Asia and maintains a neighbourhood-first policy. The many areas that India gave up to maintain friendly relations, avoid conflicts, and please its neighbours was an imprudent move that has cost the Indian exchequer exorbitantly. However, India continues to tread cautiously and push its narrative ahead with the aim of securing the readmission of these assets to India in the future.

 

Read more: Key Takeaways From Kovind Panel’s Report on One Nation One Election

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